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D&D General On Powerful Classes, 1e, and why the Original Gygaxian Gatekeeping Failed

Hind sight is 20/20. We had only 1 game from Arneson to digest the system. then his notes, typed, and then we went gonzo on it, with it in the playtests. The rules, 10 pages to start, grew in the backwash of the playtests, page by page. Normally rules are fashioned up front and then playtested, but not in this case as we had to re-emulate what Arneson and his group had attained in over 1 year of playing BM; and Gary decided on a more "progression" styled advance for Characters. This defined the system in all ways thereafter, warts and all. It is obviously styled on the old systems of linear progression and it works. Is it realistic? Well, no. It's an abstraction of what we say is Fantasy because Fantasy has no concrete data and history like simulation games do. That Gary carried it forth to AD&D is impressive; and he admitted that the rules (OD&D) were likely unfinished but that the concept had to get out there, he felt, in order to finish them. This concept had never before existed in systems/published games. That is the biggest context and to dismiss its generative days as flawed is quite preposterous. Kinda like saying that, by today's standards. that the Model-T Ford was flawed compared to a Mustang.
 

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Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
It's a fascinating look at the world as presented under the game rules, far more than a bland "anyone can be any class to any level" take that later editions have, and this kind of reading between the lines to reveal hidden truths about the game world is why I still hold earlier editions of D&D in such high regard.

That is a GREAT analysis.

That said, I wonder how much of that is purposeful, and how much of that is an unintended consequence of various sections in other books (such as Deities and Demigods) running into Gygax's famous, "This is a humano-centric game" as embodied in the level caps?

Just because there are cans of Calumet Baking soda in the pantry doesn't mean that The Shining is about American imperialism. ;)
 

That's exactly correct. If you were coming from OD&D and transitioning to AD&D, you likely used the 3d6 as a default and were just adapting the new rules.

The four methods of rolling in the DMG (which is why the UA method is, of course, Method V) are listed as alternatives to the assumed baseline of 3d6, in order.

After discussing how 3d6 can create marginal characters that might discourage new players, the DMG says "Four alternatives are offered for player characters:" (emphasis mine).

To put it more bluntly- AD&D is a codification and expansion of the OD&D rules (despite whatever certain lawsuits might have alleged). 3d6, in order, is the default, and acknowledged as such. The methods proffered in the DMG are alternatives to the default.

Whether it's because it was listed first, or because it's by far the easiest to implement, 4d6k1 became the alternative that most people were familiar with. Perhaps because rolling twelve characters and selecting the one you want sound annoying (Method IV). :)
I thought I recalled the DMG presenting Method I as the preferred default.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I thought I recalled the DMG presenting Method I as the preferred default.

No, it's just the first alternative listed (the default is 3d6 in order). But in fairness, it's the first one listed and by far the easiest so it makes sense that it became the de facto method of rolling.

Method II was to roll 3d6 12 times and keep the 6 best scores.
Method III was ... oh boy .... roll 3d6 in order for each ability, except you got to roll 6 times and keep the highest score.
Method IV was to to roll up 12 characters by rolling 3d6 in order, and keep the best character.
 

I'm fairly certain 3d6 in order is not presented as the default- it's recognized as the default in the prior game, but no longer suitable for the higher-powered ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game. Am I completely misremembering?
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
I'm fairly certain 3d6 in order is not presented as the default- it's recognized as the default in the prior game, but no longer suitable for the higher-powered ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game. Am I completely misremembering?
Here's what the text of the DMG (page 11) says:

aIVjeMK.jpg

mYjxWCp.jpg
 

billd91

Hobbit on Quest (he/him)
I'm fairly certain 3d6 in order is not presented as the default- it's recognized as the default in the prior game, but no longer suitable for the higher-powered ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game. Am I completely misremembering?
You are not misremembering at all. There is no “default” method in 1e.
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
I'm fairly certain 3d6 in order is not presented as the default- it's recognized as the default in the prior game, but no longer suitable for the higher-powered ADVANCED DUNGEONS & DRAGONS game. Am I completely misremembering?
Default isn't quite the right word for OD&D, because it implies other options existed. And in OD&D, they didn't. Not only was 3d6 in order the only way, it was rolled by the DM and not the players:

1619122358301.png
 


Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
No, it's just the first alternative listed (the default is 3d6 in order). But in fairness, it's the first one listed and by far the easiest so it makes sense that it became the de facto method of rolling.

Method II was to roll 3d6 12 times and keep the 6 best scores.
Method III was ... oh boy .... roll 3d6 in order for each ability, except you got to roll 6 times and keep the highest score.
Method IV was to to roll up 12 characters by rolling 3d6 in order, and keep the best character.
I actually kind of like the sound of method IV. Especially if instead of discarding the other 11 characters you kept them as potential henchmen to your “primary” PC and backups in case they die.
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
You know what else would be cool (and I’ve heard some folks here say they do something similar) is an ability score draft. The DM rolls up a number of ability scores equal to six times the number of PCs being created, and the players take turns drafting scores and assigning them to the ability of their choice.
 

Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
I actually kind of like the sound of method IV. Especially if instead of discarding the other 11 characters you kept them as potential henchmen to your “primary” PC and backups in case they die.

While I was reading that, I just had this vision of some dystopian reality where the characters are being created as you roll them, and then there is a room with 12 of them ... and they are looking at each other, knowing that 11 of them are about to be rubbished ....

It's like that Platform movie on Netflix, but shorter and more violent.
 

Alzrius

The EN World kitten
Default isn't quite the right word for OD&D, because it implies other options existed. And in OD&D, they didn't. Not only was 3d6 in order the only way, it was rolled by the DM and not the players:

View attachment 135935
There was also some limited stat-trading allowed, which was presumably done by the players:

A7Pzvvg.jpeg

Of course, there was a limit to how much you could lower the listed ability scores in order to improve your prime requisite:

A95DxG8.jpg


It's worth noting that Holmes Basic (1977) kept all of this, but explicitly said that the players rolled their ability scores. Nor did it forget to give the prime requisites and stat-trading options for thieves:

PY0eaUL.jpg

cis296y.jpeg
 

mach1.9pants

Adventurer
That's exactly correct. If you were coming from OD&D and transitioning to AD&D, you likely used the 3d6 as a default and were just adapting the new rules.

The four methods of rolling in the DMG (which is why the UA method is, of course, Method V) are listed as alternatives to the assumed baseline of 3d6, in order.

After discussing how 3d6 can create marginal characters that might discourage new players, the DMG says "Four alternatives are offered for player characters:" (emphasis mine).

To put it more bluntly- AD&D is a codification and expansion of the OD&D rules (despite whatever certain lawsuits might have alleged). 3d6, in order, is the default, and acknowledged as such. The methods proffered in the DMG are alternatives to the default.

Whether it's because it was listed first, or because it's by far the easiest to implement, 4d6k1 became the alternative that most people were familiar with. Perhaps because rolling twelve characters and selecting the one you want sound annoying (Method IV). :)
Ah, I've missed that. They are four alternatives but they are recommended alternatives. Gygax is saying don't use 3d6 in order because the bit before you quoted says "it is recommended that the following systems be used. Four alternatives..." Emphasise mine. So 3d6 in order is the known default from OD&D days, but the DMG says don't use that!
 

Sacrosanct

Legend
Publisher
There was also some limited stat-trading allowed, which was presumably done by the players:

A7Pzvvg.jpeg

Of course, there was a limit to how much you could lower the listed ability scores in order to improve your prime requisite:

A95DxG8.jpg


It's worth noting that Holmes Basic (1977) kept all of this, but explicitly said that the players rolled their ability scores. Nor did it forget to give the prime requisites and stat-trading options for thieves:

PY0eaUL.jpg

cis296y.jpeg
Moldvay Basic also had stat trading. Needless to say I was disappointed when I wasn't allowed to do that when I moved to AD&D later that year lol.
 


Snarf Zagyg

Notorious Liquefactionist
Ah, I've missed that. They are four alternatives but they are recommended alternatives. Gygax is saying don't use 3d6 in order because the bit before you quoted says "it is recommended that the following systems be used. Four alternatives..." Emphasise mine. So 3d6 in order is the known default from OD&D days, but the DMG says don't use that!

Yep! Of course, it's also contextual (isn't everything)? If you were fresh to it, it's much more of an admonition. If, however, you had transitioned from OD&D (and had already been playing "AD&D" with the PHB for a while), then you might just keep on truckin' with 3d6.

(Our group IIRC was using 3d6, but you could re-roll any 1s).
 

Charlaquin

Goblin Queen
There was also some limited stat-trading allowed, which was presumably done by the players:

A7Pzvvg.jpeg
Interesting. The phrasing “for the purposes of gaining experience only” makes it sound to me like you don’t actually trade points of strength for points of wisdom, but rather that your Cleric with 14 Wisdom and 9 strength would gain experience as if they had 17 wisdom (and presumably so forth for characters of other classes with other prime requisites). That wording doesn’t appear in the Holmes Basic excerpt, so I assume that the intent there is that you do indeed trade points in one score for points in another.
 

mach1.9pants

Adventurer
Yep! Of course, it's also contextual (isn't everything)? If you were fresh to it, it's much more of an admonition. If, however, you had transitioned from OD&D (and had already been playing "AD&D" with the PHB for a while), then you might just keep on truckin' with 3d6.

(Our group IIRC was using 3d6, but you could re-roll any 1s).
Yeah it didn't even mention the 'in order' bit just using 3d6. I came to AD&D via BECMI so used 3d6 in order, then cheat like hell to get a decent character
 

Undrave

Hero
Been running it since August 2020, average 2 sessions a week with different PC groups. Highest level PCs are now 5th. I use 1 week long rests but 1 hour short rests. which prevents the LR classes dominating play.

I haven't yet really faced the challenge of a PC group being too high level for a starting PC to adventure with, though some 1st level concepts have proven unviable in a group mostly 4th or so - the Fighter-1 PC half-elf who wore only a chain shirt, wielded a greatsword, and liked to take point in assaulting the ogre & orc lair, did not survive to level 2. Player came back with a half-orc Rogue, which worked fine. I think a level 1 axe & shield Barbarian-1 would have been viable, but a melee character with AC 15 & 12 hp was a step too far.

Yeah I suspect at a point the level gap will become too big, to the point where virtually any first level PC is non-viable unless they sort of hide out and do nothing (and maybe not even then), because of the way monster damage scales in 5E, but I wonder how far it can be taken (further than 1E, given death saves and 1hp of healing getting you back up, I'd guess). Even in the OD&D/1E troupe games I've heard about it seems like people started coming in at higher levels after a certain point. I suspect you'll establish that organically though - if you get to a point where 1st-level PCs are just not viable if you go to 3rd or whatever.

Doesn't Adventure League let you play level 1 to 5 in the same group? I think there's a sort of 'tier' system in AL that pretty much works like that.
 

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